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Learning in the Womb - When Does Life Begin?

Over the course of nine months, fetuses aren’t just growing but learning as well. After all, their brains and senses are rapidly developing. Here are a few things fetuses are learning in the womb:


By 30 weeks in utero, fetuses can form and retain memories. After birth, they recognize familiar sounds from the last trimester such as voices, songs, and stories. For instance, if Mom played a certain genre of music while pregnant, the baby may demonstrate a preference for this genre or find it soothing. 

Over the course of 9 months, fetuses grow so accustomed to hearing their mothers’ voices that their cries outside the womb tend to match the melodic patterns of their mothers’ native languages. In fact, research has found that language learning itself begins prior to birth. Newborns only hours old are able to differentiate between sounds from their native language and a foreign language. 

A fetus’ ability to form memories extends to all their senses, as they may even recall tastes from the womb. What a woman eats affects the flavor of her amniotic fluid, which is continuously swallowed by the fetus. Experts say babies remember these flavors and even demonstrate a preference for these familiar flavors. This can be particularly influential in developing a baby’s palate, as Mom introduces flavors of her culture. Click here for studies on taste in the womb. 


Fetal habituation can occur as early as the second trimester. Habituation is the diminishing of an emotional or physical response to a repeated stimulus over time. As the pregnancy progresses, the fetus may not startle as easily to loud noises—particularly if those noises are familiar. For instance, the sound of Mom’s alarm clock or vacuum may be a bit jarring for the fetus at first, but with time and exposure the fetus will be desensitized to these noises.


Learn more about the various stages of fetal development (conception, first, second, and third trimester) and don’t forget to follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok).